Well folks, it’s that time of year again, NBA draft time. The Chicago Bulls have struck gold many times throughout their history and hopefully this draft will bring another future contributor.
This year, the Bulls have three picks in the draft. They own the 16th, 19th, and 49th picks. The Bulls received the 16th pick from the Charlotte Bobcats (Hornets now) in exchange for forward Tyrus Thomas as part of a 2010 deal .
The past few years have been tough for the Bulls as far as the draft is concerned. The Bulls always seem to play well enough to make the Eastern Conference playoffs, but unfortunately when they make the playoffs they are no longer a lottery team and are then out of the running for a higher draft pick. Since 2010, the Bulls haven’t had a draft pick that cracked the top 15 spots.
The fact that the Bulls are often picking in the lower half of the first round of the draft has not stopped them from finding quality players. Their biggest draft successes since Derrick Rose have been Taj Gibson (26th pick 2009) and Jimmy Butler (30th pick 2011).
The top few picks this year are pretty much a consensus agreement with Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, and Andrew Wiggins most likely being drafted in the top three spots. Fortunately for the non-lottery teams, the 2014 draft class is pretty deep, featuring a good amount of quality players. Some of them are NBA ready while some have a massive amount of potential if they are drafted into the right system by the right organization.
Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls organization have a style and system that players need to completely buy into to succeed in. The Bulls have done a good job targeting players that fit well into Thibodeau’s system the past few years and I think there are a few players this year that would be a nice fit.
The Bulls really need an upgrade at the small forward and shooting guard positions. Unfortunately, most of the highest quality small forwards in the 2014 draft are likely to be picked before the Bulls are on the clock. But if several players slide in the draft, the Bulls could find themselves with a shot to draft a solid small forward with the 16th pick.
Cleanthony Early (Wichita State): 6-foot-7 small forward, 210 pounds
Early put up solid numbers at the NBA combine and has shown a wide range of shooting strengths and lots of energy on the court. He’s an athletic player who averaged 16 points per game last season and is projected to be one of the oldest players drafted into the NBA this year. A combination of his age and his time playing for Wichita State has provided Early with some great experience in big game situations which will hopefully help him fit more comfortably into the NBA.
The main concern with Early is his strength and weight. He will have to put on some more muscle weight if he expects to defend small forwards at the NBA level. It is very possible Early could be available at pick 16 or 19.
Because Jimmy Butler can easily play the small forward position, the Bulls could have the chance to move him to the small forward position on a more regular basis and then pick up a solid shooting guard with the 16th or 19th pick. Personally, I really like Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris, but I highly doubt he’ll be available once the Bulls’ first pick comes around. However, I do think there is a decent chance Kentucky’s James Young will still be available on the board at 16.
James Young (Kentucky): 6-foot-6 shooting guard, 213 pounds
James Young may be a one-and-done player but if a player only plays one year in the NCAA, John Calipari is one of the best coaches they could play for.
Young is tall and lengthy and boasts an impressive 6-foot-7 wingspan. Young has proven he can shoot accurately from many spots on the court and his quick release makes him a tough challenge for defenders. According to scouting reports, one thing about Young is that he doesn’t have any one particular skill he excels at.
Fortunately for Young, being an overall good player is a good problem to have. I think coach Thibodeau could really work with and develop Young into a great piece for the Chicago Bulls. If the Bulls want Young they are going to have to hope they can get him with the 16th pick.
If the Bulls can’t re-sign both Augustin and Hinrich, they are going to need a 3rd point guard. One name that I haven’t heard many people throw out when talking about this year’s Bulls draft prospects is someone I think would fit in perfectly with Thibodeau and the Bulls: UConn star Shabazz Napier.
Shabazz Napier (Connecticut): 6-foot point guard, 175 pounds
Napier has a lot of great intangible qualities. He’s an exciting player who shows up big for big games. He’s a great leader and is someone who can get both his teammates and the crowd pumped up at the right times. Shabazz is a good distributor and also has the ability to make his own shot if he needs to. I think he’d fit in great with the Bulls.
I imagine Napier giving the Bulls the same type of energy that Nate Robinson provided for them a few seasons ago. He’s not the most athletic of players and he sometimes has the tendency to force questionable shots, but with the help and guidance of either Hinrich or Augustin and Derrick Rose, the Bulls could be a great place for Napier to learn how to play basketball at an NBA level while still contributing assistance and minutes to a Bulls team that has had injury problems at the point guard position. I think Napier would be an awesome addition to the Bulls if he’s available when they are on the clock with the 19th pick.
The Bulls are hopefully set at the power forward position with Taj Gibson for the foreseeable future. But if the Bulls create some type of trade to get Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, or LeBron James, there is a high probability that Taj Gibson will be part of the deal. So if the Bulls have to give up Gibson, I think the addition of Michigan State’s Adreian Payne would be a great acquisition at the power forward position.
Adreian Payne (Michigan State): 6-foot-10 power forward, 239 pounds
Adreian Payne has made great strides in his offensive abilities throughout his time at Michigan State. He is truly one of the great players to come out of Tim Izzo’s system in the past decade.
Payne has the offensive ability to both post up in the paint and shoot efficient numbers from mid-range. Payne’s size and strength give him the immediate ability to physically challenge many NBA power forwards. If he can further develop his on-ball and off-ball defense and continue to put on muscle, Payne could learn to effectively guard any player in the NBA.
Scouting reports show that Payne has below average lung capacity for a man his size. This could ultimately affect his endurance and the amount of minutes he can play during a game, and if there’s one thing that everyone knows about Tom Thibodeau, it’s that he requires his players to play large amounts of minutes. Hopefully, Payne would be able to find ways to continue to improve his endurance with the help of the Bulls training and medical staff. If the Bulls end up needing a power forward, Payne would be a good choice with the 19th pick.
I can’t imagine the Bulls resigning Nazr Mohammed so if Joakim Noah goes down, they are going to be in some serious trouble. The free agent crop of centers in the NBA isn’t great this summer and the few quality centers that are available will cost way more than the Bulls are willing to spend. I think if the Bulls are lucky, they could possibly draft one of two players.
Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia): 6-foot-11 center, 280 pounds
Nurkic is quite frankly described on the scouting report as a beast. Nurkic is so aggressive defensively and on the boards, he often finds himself in serious foul trouble after only playing minimal minutes. But in the 15 minutes per game he averaged in the 2013-2014 season playing in the Euroleague, Nurkic averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Nurkic would need a lot of coaching, development, and guidance if he is to succeed in the NBA. Nurkic would be a good project for the Bulls’ staff but considering the Bulls already own the rights to fellow Euroleague star Nikola Mirotic, the Nurkic pick seems unlikely. If the Bulls really want to draft Nurkic, they would have to target him with their 19th pick. Because of his aggressive play style and his lack of high-level basketball experience, he could fall on the draft board and be available when the Bulls make the 49th pick. If Nurkic is available at 49, I think the Bulls have to take him.
Mitch McGary (Michigan): 6-foot-10 center, 266 pounds
McGary is a great player who played in arguably the toughest conference in all of NCAA Basketball. He’s a hardworking, physical player with above average basketball intelligence. He was a huge part of Michigan’s run to the NCAA National Championship Game during the 2013 tournament.
Unfortunately due to a back injury, McGary only played 8 games of the 2013-2014 season and missed all of the tournament.
McGary is a hustle player who is dedicated to his fellow teammates and always giving a strong effort on the court. I think he would be a great role player in Tom Thibodeau’s system. Due to injury concerns, behavioral issues, and lack of high-level basketball experience, McGary could find himself sliding down the draft board. Like Nurkic, if the Bulls want McGary they are going to have to take him with the 19th pick because he will most likely be long gone by the time the 49th pick rolls around. But if for some magic reason he’s on the board at 49, he’s a lock for the Bulls.
It’s really hard to predict exactly who a team will choose in the NBA draft, especially if they aren’t drafting in the top three positions. I can make educated guesses based on what their team needs are but I’d have to be a wizard to correctly guess what is going through the minds of the Bulls front office, let alone the minds of the people in the other 29 NBA front offices.
I believe the six players I discussed are good options for the Bulls if they are available when they are picking. The best choices in my opinion would be James Young with the 16th pick, Shabazz Napier with the 19th pick, and hopefully McGary or Nurkic with the 49th pick. But if the recent rumors circulating around the sports world are true, the Bulls are aggressively pursuing several big name free agents and offering this year’s draft picks as a major part of the deal.
So here’s to the draft! Sit back, relax, and enjoy because we never truly know what we are going to get.